The Seattle Kraken embarked on their first season in the National Hockey League on Tuesday, losing a hard-fought contest 4-3 to the Vegas Golden Knights, the second youngest team after joining the league four years ago.
The Kraken stumbled out of the gate Tuesday giving up the first three goals of the game but then clawed their way back to tie it before Vegas’ Chandler Stephenson scored the go-ahead goal on a controversial play in the third period.
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Despite the one-goal loss, Seattle sent a message to the rest of the NHL that they expect to be competitive.
The Kraken contest was one of two NHL games on tap on the opening night of the 2021-22 season. In the other game, the Pittsburgh Penguins put a damper on the Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup festivities by routing the Lightning 6-2.
When it came to brand new teams in the NHL, losing used to be the norm. That is until the Golden Knights rewrote the playbook for expansion teams and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals in their inaugural 2017-18 season.
The Kraken are the NHL’s 32nd team and will compete in the Pacific Division. They play their first five games on the road before hosting the Vancouver Canucks in their first home game on October 23.
Ryan Donato scored the first goal in Kraken history halfway through the second period from directly in front of the Vegas net. Donato took a couple of swipes at a loose puck, eventually jamming it past Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner.
That sparked a rally as Jared McCann scored 72 seconds later to cut the Vegas lead to 3-2. Morgan Geekie tied it 3-3 with a high sharp angle shot in the third period, setting the stage for Stephenson’s controversial winner with 11:27 left in the third.
Stephenson skated around a Kraken defender then cut to the net allowing the pass across from a teammate to deflect off the outside of his skate and in. The play went to video review which showed Stephenson pushed the puck in with the outside of his skate but didn’t deliberately kick it.
In Tampa, Danton Heinen and Brian Boyle scored second-period goals for the Penguins, who had a dozen players record at least one point.
Pittsburgh beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning despite playing without all-stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Standout Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed three goals on 32 shots, while Penguin netminder Tristan Jarry made 26 saves.
Tampa Bay got third period goals from Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn as the Lightning lost for the first time in eight season openers.